Root Canal Therapy

The aim of root canal treatment, also referred to as endodontic treatment, is to save a tooth that has been badly damaged due to decay, disease or injury. Many millions of teeth are saved each year thanks to root canal treatment provided by dental professionals. Most people would prefer to save their tooth, and generally it will function better than an artificial tooth.

Infection or inflammation of the pulp

Root canal therapy treats the infection or inflammation of the pulp, which may be caused by:

  • Breakdown of a filling or crown
  • A deep cavity
  • Trauma
  • Gum disease
  • Crack or chip in the tooth
  • Extreme wear
  • Extensive dental work to the tooth

Patients may exhibit symptoms of pain, sensitivity to heat or cold, tooth discolouration, and swelling or soreness in the surrounding the tooth. To save the tooth, root canal treatment may be necessary when the pulp becomes severely inflamed or infected. The sooner Root Canal Treatment is started, the more likely the treatment will be successful.

The pulp is the soft tissue deep inside the tooth, containing nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. It extends from the tooth crown to the tip of each root. However, a fully developed tooth can function normally without a pulp if root canal therapy has been successful.

Root Canal Treatment

Your dental professional will examine the tooth and potentially take a radiograph of the area. To reach the pulp an opening is made through the tooth and small instruments, called files, are used to remove the inflamed or infected pulp within each root of the tooth.

After each root has been cleaned, enlarged and shaped, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial medicines may be put inside to help stop the inflammation and infection. If an abscess has formed at the root tip, antibiotics may be prescribed.

Typically, front teeth (incisors) and premolars (bicuspids) have one or two root canals, while molars have three or four. If the pulp of each tooth is not treated quickly, severe pain and abscesses may occur.


Completion of treatment

The full treatment consists of multiple visits, with the tooth having a temporary filling to protect it between these visits. The visits generally consist of the removal of the pulp, the filling of the root canals, a fibre glass post being placed to stabilise the tooth, and the final core filling in the pulp chamber and on top of the tooth. Posts are inserted inside the tooth if it lacks enough structure to support an artificial crown.

Your Dental Professional may recommend that the tooth requires a crown, or “cap”. A tooth that has undergone Root Canal Treatment may have a higher risk of fracture after treatment and an artificial crown would assist in further protecting the tooth structure, and extending the life expectancy of the tooth.

Possible complications

As with all dental treatment there are possible, unforeseen complications that can occur. If you have any concerns please do not hesitate to talk to your dental professional about them.

While root canal treatment can save many teeth, it does not guarantee that it will save yours. It is not possible to predict how long the tooth will last after treatment, but factors such as age, general health, oral hygiene and many other factors will play an important role in the tooth’s longevity. The success of the treatment can be maximised if the patient maintains a high level of oral hygiene and completes their final restoration, this will avoid any bacteria re-entering the tooth and causing further infection.

If infection does occur again, or the tooth becomes fractured or damaged, there may be the possibility the tooth will need removing. Other possible side effects may be temporary changed in feeling of the tooth, slight pain and discomfort, and possibly discolouration.